IMG Quarterback Nearing Decision

Penn State's Charlie Fisher stopped by to evaluate the Canadian QB Tuesday. Where do the Nittany Lions stand?

The rigors of spring practice initially caught Michael O'Connor by surprise. The physical grind, the mental awareness and the hectic schedule combined with a hefty academic load made the early portion of spring ball at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) a bit hectic for the 6-foot-5, 205-pound quarterback native to Canada.

Now seven practices in, college coaches from programs around the country have come and gone. So, too, have the jitters. Now, the signal caller is adjusting to the flow of life during spring ball.

Each day begins with classes that end at 12:30 p.m.. A brief lunch and relaxation period follows before O'Connor and his teammates hit the football facilities for an hour of meetings, two hours of practice, and then roughly the same amount of time of film study.

The key to it all, he says, is improvement. And under the guide of former Heisman Trophy winner and Florida State signal caller Chris Weinke -- now the head coach at IMG -- O'Connor is seeing just that.

“As a quarterback, you want to know what's going on over the whole field, and you want to know what receivers are winning or not, and that's one thing I've noticed this spring: I like to see and study the game,” O'Connor explained. “If I see something one day, it sticks in the back of my head for the next day for practice, and it's a little reminder to be prepared for if it happens again.

“That's one thing,” he continued. “Another is being way more comfortable running the offense, and quickening my reads. Everything happens fast, but with more experience, I feel more comfortable and it slows down.”

Holding eight offers as of early May, a slew of coaches have stopped by the academy throughout May, and Penn State has marked the calendar, as well. Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher was in town Tuesday to watch the junior work out, and O'Connor feels he performed well.

He speaks with Fisher frequently, and has developed a good feel for the coach and how he operates.

“He's a straight up coach, and he's honest with you,” O'Connor said. “He's a really nice man, and he's really knowledgeable about the quarterback position.

“His demeanor is of someone I'd to play for.”

The quarterback has noticed a similar trait in Weinke, who he is learning from for the first time in camp since coming to IMG in January. O'Connor has been able to soak in all his coach has to offer, and takes the criticism -- which is always constructive -- as a chance to learn and perfect his craft.

“He knows so much about the position, and when to get on me. He definitely does that,” O'Connor said. “He's tough on me for a good reason, because he expects greatness and wants me to be the best player I can be. He gives me a lot of freedom in this offense, and if he sees something I kind of want to attack, we'll get after it.

“He's a really good coach,” he continued. “I'm learning and understanding the game more now, and am a student of the game under him.”

With a timetable to decide by the end of June if not earlier, O'Connor says he has the feeling that Penn State would like him to commit to its Class of 2014 -- which currently stands at nine verbal commits -- and he believes State's staff sees the potential for him to excel in its offense.

Vanderbilt is the program matching the Lions level of interest at this point, though he is also hearing from Wisconsin, Iowa and Notre Dame, among others.

When decision time comes, the factors that will help determine his will include family, academics and athletics, in that order. He intends to major in business, so the quality of the programs each school offers in that field are important to him.

“I'm a firm believer that football will come to an end, and a degree will be with you for the rest of your life,” he explained. “That will stick with you at the end of the day, and you want to be proud of your school and your degree.

“It's not just a football decision, it's a life decision,” he continued. “I'm going to go to the right school with academics first, athletics second, and the one that feels like home.”


Scout Football Top Stories